Arlene Foster told new build and admissions increase is a ‘must’ for Markethill High
By Eleanor McGillie
THE Principal of Markethill High School has told First Minister Arlene Foster that the school’s current high standards in educational outcomes are being achieved in spite of the school’s infrastructure.
Mr James Maxwell said high academic achievements continue to be achieved but said it was ‘wholly unacceptable’ that a third of the school’s classes are being taught in fabricated mobile huts outside of the school’s main building.
Mrs Foster met with Mr Maxwell and Mr Willie Johnston, chairman of the Board of Governors, for a recent tour of the school. The First Minister was told the school’s increase in pupil population in the past 15 years has meant it is now significantly short of accommodation space, including a 60 per cent shortfall in Science accommodation and a 40 per cent shortfall in ICT facilities.
Mr Maxwell told Mrs Foster that the school, which was built in 1959 to accommodate 200 pupils, now has 498 pupils on its roll with a significant rise to over 500 pupils expected in September 2016, stating that families living in Markethill and the surrounding rural areas deserve a new build and sixth form as population numbers continue to increase.
The school, which is currently listed in published league tables as one of the top three non-selective Controlled schools in Northern Ireland, is continuing its campaign for a New Build and Sixth Form status.
He said: “We are aware the Department of Education distributed funds last week for small capital refurbishments in schools. We fully anticipate that the Minister of Education will allocate capital funding for a brand new school in Markethill in the next round of new-build announcements shortly after the election.
“It’s time for Markethill High School – a school which remains on the Education Authority’s list as a priority for a new building. Our pupils deserve it. Our teachers deserve it and our community deserves it. There is an urgent need for increased admissions because for many years now we have had to turn some pupils away due to over subscription.
“There are huge demographic increases in Markethill, Mountnorris and Richhill and we anticipate Markethill High School will be catering for 600 pupils by 2025. More families are moving to the area in order to get their children into the school.
“We have been very transparent in highlighting the inequalities faced by our pupils and have sent the Department of Education a briefing document which clearly stipulates the need for a new build and sixth form.”
A further point made to Mrs Foster during her visit was that Markethill High School pupils are precluded from accessing rich and comprehensive ‘A’ Level provision if they do not gain access to selective post-16 education.
Mr Maxwell said: “Markethill High School pupils must achieve 13 or 14 points at GCSE while pupils in other non-selective Controlled Schools across Northern Ireland only have to attain approximately half these points to get rich ‘A’ Level provision.
“Markethill High School, with 498 pupils, is now one of only two remaining non-selective Controlled Schools in Northern Ireland with approximately 500 or more pupils which does not have access to its own sixth form ..
“There is a consensus, including from the Education Authority, that the school would meet the Bain Threshold of 100 pupils at sixth form.”
Mr Maxwell told the First Minister that it is imperative that post-16 provision for pupils in the Controlled Sector should remain within the Controlled sector. He also said the leadership and Governors of Markethill High School must get the reins of sixth form status in order for the school to be on an equal status with other similar schools, including St Joseph’s High School in Crossmaglen where there are fewer pupils from 11-16-years-old but yet is receiving a new build and has Sixth Form status.
Mr Maxwell said: “Nothing else is acceptable other than a New Build and Sixth Form in Markethill. No other solution meets the clear needs of our pupils.”
NOTES TO EDITOR:
- Markethill High School is the Best School in Northern Ireland for Modern Languages
- In September 2013, The Minister for Education John O’Dowd congratulates Markethill High School for being one of 11 schools in Northern Ireland which successfully bridges the gap between social disadvantage and educational attainment
- In October 2013 the ETI report that Markethill High School is a school of ‘very good practice’ and commends all aspects of school life
- In November 2013 Harper Adams University in Ireland announces a collaboration with Markethill High School to lead the way in education in Northern Ireland by encouraging pupils to take up careers in agriculture
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